While watching Dune, it is hard not to notice that Baron Vladimir Harkonnen mainly gets around by floating – but why is this? Portrayed by Stellan Skarsgård, Baron Harkonnen is the corrupt and brutal villain of Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, who was at one time tasked by the Emperor to rule over Arrakis. Like his book counterpart, this version of the Baron is the rotund ruler of House Harkonnen.
When Baron Harkonnen was younger, he had a much different frame than the one he most is well known for. While the Expanded Dune Universe explains the Baron’s weight as the result of a disease, the main canon – and the Baron himself in dialogue – suggest that years of gluttony and greed have morphed the villain into the man he is portrayed as in the film. His ever-increasing size creates major mobility problems and eventually leaves him unable to walk, forcing him to result to technological solutions.
Unable to support his own weight, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen has employed the use of suspensor belts. These belts have the ability to nullify gravity in a controlled way. By utilizing suspensors, the villainous Baron Harkonnen is able to move around freely without the aid of others. These belts are also the reason that the Baron has the ability to float in the movies. In the Dune book, Frank Herbert writes, “He might weigh two hundred Standard kilos in actuality, but his feet would carry no more than fifty of them.” suggesting the Baron weighs a minimum of this amount – which converts to about four hundred and forty pounds of weight.
In the books, Baron Harkonnen’s ability to float is less clearly defined. While he uses suspensors, it’s not made clear whether he is continuously floating, or whether the devices merely allow him to walk easier. However, the Baron does float in both the Alejandro Jodorowsky and the David Lynch adaptations of Dune, making it possible that the Baron floating in the latest version of the story is Villeneuve is giving a nod to these earlier works.
Brought to life by Stellan Skarsgård, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen is a fascinating character. While Baron Vladimir’s ability to float in movies might differ from the source material, it is clear that the origin of the ability is the Baron’s suspensors. These gravity-defying devices allow him to move about as he wishes, committing extreme and terrifying acts of brutality as he goes. The Baron might weigh upwards of 200 kilos, but with the use of suspensors, he is able to wreak havoc on the planet of Arrakis, both before and after Dune, by scheming with the Emperor.